The game between the Kiwoom Heroes and the Samsung Lions at the Gocheok SkyDome on April 10. In the bottom of the eighth inning, with Kiwoom leading 5-3, “KBO League Icon” Lee Jung-hoo (25) stepped to the plate.
It had a double meaning. It was his first at-bat since injuring his left ankle against the Lotte Giants on July 22. Most importantly, it was a farewell moment that we don’t know how long will last. Lee will knock on the door of Major League Baseball (MLB) through the posting system (closed competitive bidding) after the 2023 season.
Lee took off his hat to greet the crowd, and the fans applauded, both home and away. After the game, Lee took a moment to say goodbye to the fans on the field.
When Lee made his debut in the 2017 season, he was recognized as the son of Korean baseball legend Lee Jong-beom (now the coach of the LG Twins). It didn’t take him long to clear his father’s name: He won the Rookie of the Year award, setting new records for most hits (179) and runs scored (111) in a rookie season, and has steadily improved since then to become one of the league’s leading hitters. In the 2022 season, he won five batting titles and was named the regular season Most Valuable Player (MVP).
When the ‘National Hitter’ Lee Seung-yeop (now head coach of the Doosan Bears) retired, many baseball fans were concerned about the absence of a star. However, Lee stepped in and became the centerpiece of the KBO’s new era.
Now, it’s time for the post-Lee era. In Lee’s final season in the KBO, there were many young players who could become stars.
One such player is Hanwha Eagles right-handed pitcher Moon Dong-ju. After undergoing arm surgery last season, he joined the starting lineup this season and has been a regular in the rotation, posting an 8-8 record with a 3.72 ERA. On April 12, he threw a 160.1 km/h fastball in the bottom of the first inning against the KIA Tigers, setting a new record for the fastest pitch ever thrown by a South Korean pitcher. In the baseball final of the Hangzhou Asian Games (AG) on April 7, he pitched six innings of three-hit shutout ball against Chinese Taipei.
KIA Tigers first-round pick Yoon Young-chul, a left-handed rookie pitcher, also had a strong debut season. Pushing out right-hander Lim Ki-young, a longtime member of the team’s starting rotation, for the fifth spot, he went 8-7 with a 4.04 ERA in 25 appearances this season. His average velocity is in the low 140s, but his ability to hide the ball (deception), command of his pitches, and control of his velocity make him a very different pitcher than Moon. The two will compete for Rookie of the Year honors in 2023. 메이저사이트
Hanwha outfielder Moon Hyun-bin is another potential successor to Lee. He batted .266 (428-for-114) in 137 games. He became the seventh rookie in history to hit triple digits in his high school rookie season. Lotte Giants outfielder Kim Min-seok, who was Lee’s high school (Hwimungo) immediate junior, became the eighth player in history to do so, joining Moon Hyun-bin. While not a rookie, Lee Joo-hyung has also emerged as a key player in the “post-Lee Jung-hoo” era, picking up the slack left by Lee’s injury after moving from the LG Twins to Kiwoom.